Hackerspaces in San Francisco

During my visit to San Francisco as part of the Startup Catalyst Youth Founders Mission, I was able to visit the San Francisco Techshop and Noisebridge.

Techshop was a huge facility with equipment for woodworking, metalworking, welding, powdercoating, water-jet cutting, sewing, laser cutting and much more.   Their business model is for-profit, which allows them to hire ~30 mostly part time staff.  This means they need at least 700 members to make ends meet, which isn’t a problem as they have ~1000 paying members.  Less than ten percent of the membership visit during an average day.

Classes are very regular and are priced around the $100 mark, where members get a discount of $20-30.

Tech shop has a storefront where sandpaper, dremel bits, consumables and merchandise can be purchased.

This is a portion of their metal shop, including manual mills.

The huge water jet cutter is $3.00 per minute of usage.

The woodshop is small, but has a great array of large and small CNC machines which are heavily used in the lead up to the Burning Man Festival.

3D printers are paired with computers for easy drop-by usage.

Injection molding machine for creating bulk copies of small components.

Small, basic electronics benches, BYO consumables.

All good spaces have a popcorn machine.

Lots of large tables for working with textiles and dressmaking.

There were around five laser cutters that could be used simultaneously by members.

Techshop also has great internal advertising with posters.

After visiting Techshop I took a Lyft out to Noisebridge, a traditional hackerspace run by volunteers.  In comparison to the wide spaces in Techshop, Noisebridge was crammed with project examples, lights, installations and contributions by the membership.   While it was messier and needed more love and space, the projects were of a much higher technical level and gave the space a much more cosy feel.  I also loved all of the beautiful, well thought out murals in the space.

As the current President of the Brisbane Hackerspace, it was very interesting being briefed on our own rules in a different space when I asked for a tour.  I had forgotten that the founders of HSBNE had used much of Noisebridge’s content to build a strong foundation for culture and expectations.  I was specifically briefed on the space being a do-ocracy, being excellent to members and the safe space policy, something I’m very used to describing in our weekly inductions.

It was great to see they had a polargraph drawing machine photobooth – A project I had been thinking about since I built my own!

The FlaschenTaschen took up the center stage as you walked into the space, a huge matrix display built from beer bottles coated in foil, held together with milk crates.  Apparently the night before they’d been playing an incredibly pixellated version of Star Wars on the display.   See photograph of description for more information on the project.


Looking forward to giving another update on the spaces down the road in Silicon Valley next week.